It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to replace batteries in a smoke alarm. Ha!

It was Saturday, and I would be very busy getting things done for a business trip to Denver. At 3 am the smoke alarm in my bedroom started cheeping. Once every 60 seconds, to signify the batteries were low. It’s a loud cheep, and woke me up immediately. I was certainly not going to get up at 3 am to replace the batteries, so I attempted to go back to sleep. After 10 more cheeps, I gave up, found a couple of ear plugs, and was able to drift off.

In the morning, I unhooked the smoke alarm from the ceiling. The cheeps continued from the ceiling, implying the ceiling-mounted part of the smoke alarm knew that the batteries were low, and would not stop cheeping until they were replaced. It took me a while to figure how to open the battery drawer in the unhooked part. But the battery would not slide out.

I tried for 60 mins to get that damn battery out, including a screwdriver, and pliers, and reading the manual. In the process I busted two fingernails. So I gave up and went to Radio Shack in the mall. The man in Radio Shack looked mature and wise. I had feared I would get a young know-it-all who would attack the problem with pliers and screwdriver, and end up busting the plastic casing. This older gentleman was careful, and he tried different small screwdrivers to lever the battery out. After 10 minutes of effort, out it popped. He discovered you have to push the battery in against a spring to get it to pop out. I complained that the manual said nothing of this.

So feeling better, I hastened home and installed a new battery, and remounted the smoke alarm in the ceiling. I waited 60 seconds, and a loud cheep assaulted my ears. And I could not believe it. I waited longer, hoping, but the cheeps persisted every 60 seconds. I unscrewed the alarm, and installed a second new battery. The cheeps continued. In desperation, I unscrewed it again, and peered into the ceiling mounting to see if I could detect any problem with the connections up there. Each time it beeped, it made me jump as it was so loud and I was so close. I could detect nothing wrong, so I climbed down from the chair, totally perplexed.

A tiny thought entered my mind: could the cheeps be coming from somewhere else? I stepped to the hallway where the next smoke alarm was, but no sound came from there. Back in the bedroom, I poked about, and discovered a carbon monoxide detector buried in a corner right below the overhead smoke alarm.

The cheeps were coming from there, and not from the smoke alarm! To let you know I am not completely dumb (only partially so), the cheep noise was shooting straight up and then reflecting from the ceiling, so that it was really hard to tell where the noise was coming from. In my fixit wisdom, I had just assumed the cheeps were coming from the smoke alarm in the ceiling.

After more than two hours wasted on the hated smoke alarm, I needed to de-stress, so I went for a long walk along the arroyo. I thought about the lost time, and how critical this was to my plans for the day, and how stupid I had been. Five thoughts came to me like the cheeps from the smoke alarm.

One, I had to let this go. Two, yes I admit that I made a dumb mistake, but all humans do (even Peter denied Christ). Three, I recalled the times when I was not stupid: yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that. Four, I still had the rest of this day, and tomorrow, to accomplish things, to make up for lost time. Five, the Lord implied if you keep looking back, the path of your future will be wobbly. The most positive people I know rarely look back, as they are involved in too many interesting and rewarding things on a day-to-day basis. My anger and regret starting dissolving away, like rivulets of water washing down the arroyo.

“Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 62).

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….

7 comments on “It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to replace batteries in a smoke alarm. Ha!”

  1. Marie White says:

    Ian, I enjoy your blogs so much. Always thought provoking. Had a nice time with MaryAnn today. Marie White

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Thanks Marie for the compliment….its very encouraging.

  2. Boris Delimarschi says:

    It is an interesting experience. Not so many people can recognize their failures, and only a small number of them can apply such an analytical approach. I am sure that for many cases, only such an approach can lead to a problem solution. The case that you described shows how frequently we focus our efforts in the wrong direction. I’m not sure that, being in the same situation, I’d have enough patience to find and fix the problem.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Your phase “how frequently we fix our focus in the wrong direction” hit me. To me, this can be called a mistake. Most people tend to think a mistake is bad, but I do not. A mistake, or taking the wrong direction, is always a learning experience. And its a healthy sign that a person is trying something different……much better than talking about it and not doing anything!

  3. Garrick Little says:

    Thanks for your willingness to admit your flaws Ian. Of course we all do things like that and worse. The only things I really regret are those things that betray an unfaithful spirit in dealing with the Lord!

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Garrick, yes its the human condition to fail at times. Sadly, I have met people who do not know how to apologize, when they do something wrong. Its all part of realizing and admitting that at times we fall short. And thats where a healthy appreciation that God loves us no matter what, and is eager to restore us, comes in…..if only we squash our ego (pride) and in humility believe it and accept it.


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